The Royal Navy’s new Carrier Strike Group has assembled for the first time, marking a return to carrier-based operations.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is at the centre of the nine-ship group which also includes 15 fighter jets, 11 helicopters and 3,000 personnel from the UK, US and the Netherlands.
The deployment, currently in the North Sea, will culminate in Scotland where the maritime group will operate alongside army and RAF personnel on a joint exercise.
The strike group is the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years. The Carrier Strike Group includes Nato’s most sophisticated destroyers: the Royal Navy’s Type 45s HMS Diamond and HMS Defender and US Navy Arleigh Burke-class USS The Sullivans.
Frigates HMS Northumberland and HMS Kent from the UK and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Evertsen are also on the exercise:
The Royal Navy has said it will formally declare “initial operating capability” by the end of this year, meaning the carrier strike group can be used in action for the first time. The first operational deployment is still planned for 2021.
As part of the first mission, HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to lead the group on “freedom of navigation” passages through international waters in the South China Sea. Recent years have seen China acting more assertively in the region by declaring sole ownership of the areas; claims disputed by many in the region and around the world.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “The new UK Carrier Strike Group is the embodiment of British maritime power, and sits at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy.
“Protected by a ring of advanced destroyers, frigates, helicopters and submarines, and equipped with fifth generation fighters, HMS Queen Elizabeth is able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing; and with our Nato allies at our side, we will be ready to fight and win in the most demanding circumstances.
“Carrier Strike offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage; it reassures our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would-be adversaries.”